Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Dropping the apostrophe....

Levi's is one of the few companies to retain the possessive apostrophe in its name. Most companies have now dropped it: Boots, Tescos, Woolworths, Barclays, Harrods etc. But this omission is a recent thing; as David Crystal points out in his excellent book, The English Language, in the 1930s you would've bought Chambers's Encyclopædia while in the 1970s you would've bought Chambers English Dictionary.

Counter to this trend, some companies retain the apostrophe: Macy's and Kellog's along with Levi's are some of the few that do. In the US there is far more pressure to retain it (all of the companies mentioned here that do are American) - might this be US companies looking for a degree of heritage; perhaps it's an attempt to convey some sort of pedigree?

The British seem to favour its omission when it comes to company names. Waterstones recently dropped the apostrophe from its name amidst cries of despair from grammatical diehards. Perhaps it's an attempt to haul ourselves out of the 19th Century and compete with American commercialism; perhaps we think that it looks too fussy or that it lacks dynamism. Undoubtedly the internet has played its part - what do you do with an apostrophy in a URL?

Just look how we've adopted American work practices and management styles; companies that start the day by forcing their staff into morale building, back patting sessions that may work in the US but don't sit so comfortably with the British worker. I suppose it's all part of the creeping americanisation of British culture - some of it good; some of it not so good.

Have a nice day...

Monday, 30 January 2012


My memory is now so bad that I've reached the stage where, not only can I not remember why I walked into a room but, by the time I get to the end of my question asking myself why, I've forgotten the beginning of the question. I fear that one night my heart will forget to beat; yes, one day even homeostasis (look it up) might fail me as my memory already has done.

It didn't used to be that way. Time was when I never wrote anything down; my memory was like chiseling into granite. I never needed a diary nor that 1980s fashion must have, a Filofax. Dental appointments, birthdays and holidays were burned into my brain. Those days are sadly gone.

My dad had Alzheimer's and they say it has a genetic aspect so I guess I'm at increased risk. Imagine my delight then to score 90% (I'm counting that as a good score) in this online memory experiment in the Guardian.

Go on, you know you want to... but you only have until Tuesday Jan 31st 2012.
Today's run at 17:59
Distance4.03 kmTime21:18
Pace5:17 min/kmCadence82 spm
Comments: Cold. Cloudy.

Sunday, 29 January 2012

The Roches...

The Roches are a vocal group consisting of three sisters. I can't get them out of my head today. Their music tends to be a bit folky and a bit quirky and I love their 1982 album Keep On Doing.

This album was produced by Robert Fripp who also plays on some of the songs. Fripp and The Roches may seem like an unlikely combination but he acts as a sour counterpoint to their sweetness. The first track of the album is a three part, a cappella version of Handel's Hallelujah Chorus. Stunning.
Today's run at 13:59
Distance4.38 kmTime24:19
Pace5:33 min/kmCadence81 spm
Comments: Cold and damp.

Saturday, 28 January 2012

Dr John Sentamu...

I used to say live and let live when it came to religion. If someone asked me what I thought, despite being an atheist for my entire adult life, I'd usually respond with, "Whatever gets you through the day..."

Recent comments by Dr John Sentamu, Archbishop of York and second in command in the Church of England ranks, indicate that possibly my laissez faire attitude needs revision. Sentamu has gone on record as saying that ministers should not overrule the Bible and tradition by allowing same-sex marriage. He continued:
"I don't think it is the role of the state to define what marriage is.
"It is set in tradition and history and you can't just (change it) overnight, no matter how powerful you are.
"We've seen dictators do it, by the way, in different contexts and I don't want to redefine very clear social structures that have been in existence for a long time and then overnight the state believes it could go in a particular way."
In a modern society, should we allow such believers of myth and superstition a national platform, given their medieval world view?

For anyone interested in this fool's bilious jibberings, you can read it here in Sentamu's interview with the Telegraph.
Today's run at 16:34
Distance4.40 kmTime24:36
Pace5:36 min/kmCadence82 spm
Comments: Clear. Cold.

Friday, 27 January 2012

The Big Windsor...

There's a plaque on the front of The Windsor Hotel in Cardiff Bay that comemorates the French chef who worked there after the War. It reads:

THE WAR 1939-45

The Big Windsor, as it used to be known and still is by some in the docks, was a popular local pub but also attracted visitors from further afield, some of them quite well known: Noel Coward, Katherine Hepburn, Kenneth Moore and Hugh Griffiths - to name a few.

It was refurbished some time ago and transformed into an Indian restaurant after lying derelict for years.
Today's run at 16:52
Distance4.02 kmTime21:47
Pace5:25 min/kmCadence82 spm
Comments: Clear. Cold.

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Lynette White...

It's always a bit weird when you can remember exactly what you were doing on a certain day a year or two ago. I'm not talking about red letter days such as birthdays or Christmas but ordinary days. It's a rarity indeed when that day was 5 or 10 years ago.

I can remember exactly what I was doing on February 14th 1988 (nearly 24 years ago) and the reason for that is because it was the day that Lynette White, a Cardiff prostitute, was murdered after being stabbed more than 50 times in a docks flat here in Cardiff.

I was working in the area on that day and was subsequently interviewed by the police; not as a suspect but as a potential witness. As it turned out, I disappointed them because I only left the office once and for a short period only. I saw nothing.

Over the years there have been numerous occasions to remember that day; there have been 3 murder trials, 1 appeal, 1 IPCC investigation, 1 perjury trial and 1 police corruption trial. These have all made headlines in South Wales with all the Welsh news channels giving them plenty of airtime.

The corruption trial collapsed in November 2011 because it was discovered that vital documents had been destroyed. The judge ordered that the officers be acquitted because a fair trial without the missing documents would not have been possible.

Today, it has been announced, those documents have been found and a review has been ordered by Director of Public Prosecutions.
Today's run at 17:51
Distance4.00 kmTime22:07
Pace5:31 min/kmCadence83 spm
Comments: Cloudy. Cold.

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Dydd Santes Dwynwen...

It's Burns Night tonight: a celebration of Robert Burns' life and poetry on January 25th, his birthday. Traditionally, haggis is eaten and whiskey is drunk, poems and songs by Robert Burns are recited and sung with much toasting and speeches given.

In Wales, today is Dydd Santes Dwynwen (Saint Dwynwen's Day). Dwynwen is the Welsh saint of love and as such, today is the Welsh equivalent of St Valentine's Day. The stories of how she became the saint for love all begin with her falling for Maelon. What happens then varies from banishment to rape but all agree that she never fulfilled her love and instead became a nun.

Never let it be said that we're not a romantic nation, us welshies...
Today's run at 17:28
Distance4.01 kmTime22:42
Pace5:40 min/kmCadence82 spm
Comments: Cloudy.

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Three steps forward, two steps back...

Behaviours are hard to change; it takes much longer than you'd think to eradicate one behaviour and embed another in its place. I've never been that proud of the way I deal with stressful situations. It's always been something I'd like to get better at dealing with.

If I look back over the last 6 months, I'd say that I've made progress but it has been much slower than I'd anticipated. Three steps forward and two steps back was never going to win me any races but I'm not interested in speed so much; I'm more interested in finishing.

This morning I did one of my backward steps; I reacted to something in a way that I shouldn't have done. I opened my mouth and what I thought sounded like a reasonable argument, on reflection, must have sounded like a rape alarm going off.

Such episodes in the past have been dwelt on and then gone on to ruin my entire day. However, today I put it behind me and then got on with the rest of the day. It worked. It was a productive day too. I felt I covered so much ground. I like days like today.
Today's run at 18:10
Distance4.01 kmTime21:37
Pace5:24 min/kmCadence81 spm
Comments: Cloudy.

Monday, 23 January 2012

I'd be dead if it wasn't for this man...

Frederick Banting was a Canadian who, in 1921, was one of the main discoverers of insulin, which was achieved by keeping a diabetic dog alive using daily injections of canine pancreas extract. For this and his subsequent research, he won the Nobel Prize for medicine in 1923 and was knighted in 1934. His discovery has saved the lives of hundreds of thousands of people ever since, me included.

I have been diabetic since I was 15. I didn't get it because of bad diet or little exercise; I got it because my body started destroying the cells that produce insulin. This is sometimes know as Type 1 diabetes and it's an auto-immune disease.

Diabetes is one of those conditions that everyone thinks they know about but in most cases, they do not. The myths about diabetes are many:
You get diabetes because of a bad diet
You get diabetes because of lack of exercise
You can't eat sweet things if you're a diabetic
You can't drive if you're diabetic
You get ill all the time if you're diabetic
You have to eat special diabetic food if you're diabetic
Diabetes is contagious
Incidences of diabetes are increasing worldwide and especially so in the west. The cost of treating diabetics and keeping us healthy is huge but that bill becomes even bigger if we are left untreated and lose our health.

There's a rather good article on the BBC's website today that outlines the initial research on diabetes undertaken by Frederick Banting.

Sunday, 22 January 2012


Last night's shenanigans have left me severely hungover today. I have discovered photos, in which I appear, that I have no recollection of having been taken. Thankfully, all are fairly harmless and capture me doing silly things at worst. Nothing too embarrassing has surfaced... yet.

One thing I do remember from last night was a conversation with @sane_eric about a project his daughter has started: to take a photograph every day for a year. I remember comparing it to writing a blog post every day and that conversation we had has gone around in my head all day.

I keep coming back to the concept of originality; surely one of the biggest threats to creativity. There are times when I sit at my keyboard and the only thought in my head is, "I can't think of anything to write about". Whereas, I can; of course I can. There are thousands of things I could write about. What I really mean is, "I can't think of anything to write about that's original". Striving for originality can be the death of creativity. I've touched on this subject before in a post entitled, Variations on a theme...

Of course, at a basic level, nothing is original anymore; everything has already been done. Or has it? Why bother creating anything if someone's already done it. At the risk of contradicting myself, much of what we create is indeed original, whether it's been done before or not; because of when it was created, its relation to other elements and who created it. So, yes it may have been done before a hundred times over but not in the same way as you're doing it now.

I'm reminded of the Noah K Project by Noah Kalina, who has taken a photograph of himself (almost) every day since January 2000 and is still going. There's also a video of the first six years entitled, Noah takes a photo of himself every day for 6 years. Hypnotic.

Saturday, 21 January 2012

How to tie a bow tie...

I'm off to a black tie do tonight. I've always bought a self-tie bow tie rather than a pre-tied bow tie. I mean, you'd never wear a pre-tied conventional tie would you - unless you work in mental health.

So here are instructions on how to tie a bow tie. A diagram and a video: take your pick. You can practice by tying it around your leg above the knee whilst seated.

And remember, when it comes to bow ties, practice never makes perfect. If you want perfection buy a pre-tied bow tie. I much prefer the self-tied variety because it doesn't look as neat as the pre-tied version; it has character.

Having said all of that, I may just wear a conventional tie tonight.
Today's run at 08:31
Distance4.01 kmTime23:25
Pace5:50 min/kmCadence81 spm
Comments: Squally showers.

Friday, 20 January 2012

A state of life that calls for another way of living...

One of my favorite films has to be Koyaanisqatsi by Godfrey Reggio. Its the film that broke new ground with its time-lapse and slow motion photography of natural and latterly urban landscapes. It has no plot and no characters but does boast a score by minimalist composer, Philip Glass.

Koyaanisqatsi is a Hopi Indian word that means chaotic life or crazy life; the film also defines it as life in turmoil and life disintegrating and a state of life that calls for another way of living. When you watch it the meanings become apparent as the film unfolds.

Released in 1982, it has been hugely influential, and not just with other films; pop videos, commerials, computer games, TV series and animation have all paid homage to the film and its score.

Here's the section entitled Pruitt Igoe. Mesmerising.
Today's run at 17:57
Distance4.06 kmTime22:23
Pace5:31 min/kmCadence81 spm
Comments: Cloudy. Drizzle.

Thursday, 19 January 2012

A gentle man...

Born in 1931 into a large family (one of ten children), my dad was the eldest son. He never traveled. He never saw the world. Belonging was important to him - his family and the community in which he grew up. That was enough.

The picture on the right was taken in 1953. He's 21 and he's doing his National Service in the army. Despite the large amounts of booze infront of him, he never was what you'd call a big drinker.

In his younger days he was a sportsman; a professional footballer for a time and a PE instructor in the army. Sport and physical fitness were his passions. He was a true team player.

He wasn't good at expressing his feelings. Emotion was something with which he never felt comfortable. I saw him cry only twice - once when my mother left him and again when his mother died.

He was a simple man; simple in the sense that he never analysed anything deeply. He accepted what life threw at him - he always took the line of least resistance.

He never hurt anyone intentionally. Some said he was too soft for his own good. Some took advantage of his good nature. He raised his hand to me only once. His humour was always self deprecating.

The 1950s was a world he understood. The 60s puzzled him, the 70s shocked him, the 80s dismayed him and through the 90s his comprehension of the world slackened as Alzheimer's slowly took its toll.

He died eight years ago this week.
Today's run at 17:54
Distance4.03 kmTime22:03
Pace5:28 min/kmCadence83 spm
Comments: Blustery.

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Fashion accessory...

Gone are the days (by and large) of intolerance towards gay men. Time was when we checked who else was listening before we started conversations, when we avoided crowds for fear of discovery, when we lowered our voices to discuss certain sensitive subjects. We even had our own coded language.

Nowadays, we can discuss our lives in the same way heterosexuals discuss their lives: in public and without fear of reproach. However, this new found liberation comes at a cost; for some heterosexuals, the acquaintance of a gay man is a feather in their caps.

Most of my straight friends treat me like any other friend but occasionally I meet someone who wants to appropriate me and I sometimes feel like I'm no more than a fashion accessory. By way of an explanation of what I mean, here's a video entitled, Shit Girls Say to Gay Guys.
Today's run at 17:57
Distance4.02 kmTime21:40
Pace5:23 min/kmCadence82 spm
Comments: Cloudy. Drizzle.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012


I remember a story from 2003 where a gay Church of England cleric was forced to step down from his appointment as Bishop of Reading because of his sexuality. That man was Jeffery John, Dean of St Albans. What I hadn't heard was that in 2010 he was overlooked for the position of Bishop of Southwark, again, it now transpires, because of his sexuality. He is now considering legal action against the Church of England on the grounds of discrimination.

If I were the Church of England, I'd have a long hard think about the alienating effect my antiquated stance is having on ordinary members of my congregation - most people nowadays are quite accepting of homosexuality; they have friends who are homosexuals and they know them to be (for the most part) decent people. If I were the Church of England I'd also be wondering how long before my homophobia cost me dearly in hefty fines.

If I were Jeffery John, Dean of St Albans, I'd sue the Church of England's ass off. For an employer to treat an employee in this manner is indefensible. And having successfully won my legal action, if I were Jeffery John, Dean of St Albans, I'd get a job somewhere else. Surely, for a man of my seniority and with my talents and experience, there must be a job out there where I could really do some good and feel valued for doing it.

If I were a young, gay and confused Christian man, I'd probably look outside the Church of England for guidance regarding my sexuality - perhaps the Quakers; I've heard that they are quite accepting of gay people. Or maybe, if I were a young, gay and confused Christian man, I might take my church's message of intolerance to heart and, in my confusion and teenage angst, I might consider joining the already swollen ranks of those young gay men and women (who outnumber their suicidal straight opposites by a factor of four to one) in prematurely ending my life.
Today's run at 17:20
Distance4.09 kmTime21:31
Pace5:15 min/kmCadence82 spm
Comments: Clear. Frosty.

Monday, 16 January 2012

It's depressing...

The third Monday in January has become known as Blue Monday; the weather is cold and damp and the days are short, you wake to the arrival of a bloated credit card bill and the growing realisation that all your New Year's resolutions have failed. Science proves it to be the most depressing date in the calendar.

But does it and is it?

In reality Blue Monday started as a press campaign by Sky Travel in an effort to get people to shake their (so called) winter blues by booking a holiday. The article was largely pre-written before being circulated to the scientific community for endorsement. Cash was offered as a sweetener, should the thrill of seeing your name in print as the author of this claim not be enough.

Cardiff University's Dr Cliff Arnall, a psychologist, stepped up to the mark and into the limelight, and with a scientific equation to prove it.
Following the initial thrill of New Year's celebrations and changing over a new leaf, reality starts to sink in. The realization coincides with the dark clouds rolling in and the obligation to pay off Christmas credit card bills.
Cardiff University were quick to distance themselves from Dr Cliff and his psuedoscience. Dr Cliff has since gone on to write an equation to calculate the happiest day of the year (sponsored by Walls Icecream).

That was in 2005 and since then the press have run this story every year, despite some public campaigns (notably by Dr Ben Goldacre in his Bad Science column) to discredit this as meaningless babble. Google it today and you'll see from the results it's still a story that the media are prepared to flog to death. Surprisingly, it has also been used by organisations concerned with mental health to bring a focus to depression.

What's really depressing about all this is that depression is a real and very serious condition. It is not a slight feeling of vague sadness to be hijacked by the media and paraded through the press like a bank holiday; something to mark in your calendar for next year.

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Prepare for take off...

Cardiff International Airport has had its ups and downs. Lately, it seems, the downs have outnumbered the ups. News last year that Bmibaby would cease to operate out of Cardiff was a major blow to an already ailing business. Calls for the scrapping of the £8m public subsidy for the route between Cardiff and Anglesey (humorously known as Ieuan Air after keen support from Anglesey Assembly Member, Ieuan Wyn Jones) have been numerous and are another threat.

News this week that Spanish budget airline, Vuelling has announced additional routes between Cardiff International Airport and holiday destinations in Spain is most welcome. This follows closely on the news last year that the same company was introducing flights from Cardiff to Barcelona.

This is great news for an airport that has lost more passengers over the last three years than any other UK regional airport. Airport bosses are calling for the Welsh public to support these new routes and there are calls from local politicians for the establishment of some long haul business routes, such as to New York and Dubai.

What no-one seems to arguing for, however, is better transport links to the airport. Yes, new routes are an important factor in turning this airport into successful and thriving venture. However, people need to be able to access the airport to take advantage of these routes and not everyone is able to nor wants to drive there. The frequency of buses is appallingly scant and the facilities for those electing to use public transport is, in a word, shit.

I've written before, criticising the facilities at Cardiff International Airport. Despite this, I would love to write about how it had turned around this sorry image and now lived up to its description, international. Sadly, that seems a long way off. If Wales were facing a referendum on independence we'd have to take into consideration that anyone wishing to fly to a newly independent Wales would probably want to fly to Birmingham or Bristol rather than Cardiff International Airport.
Today's run at 09:19
Distance4.02 kmTime22:54
Pace5:42 min/kmCadence82 spm
Comments: Clear. Still.

Saturday, 14 January 2012

Tom Lehrer...

Tom Lehrer was born in Manhattan in 1928. He studied mathematics at Harvard in the 1940s and became famous in the 1950s and 60s for darkly humourous and satirical songs such as I Got it from Agnes and So Long Mom.

Lehrer came to prominence as a musical satirist through writing comic songs to entertain his college friends. Through word of mouth he developed a considerable following and by the late 50s embarked on a series of concert tours. This was followed by a spell of writing for the US version of That Was The Week That Was.

Tom Lehrer retired from the world of entertainment in the early 70s, concentrating instead on an academic career, lecturing in Mathematics and Musical Theatre. It was rumoured that his retirement was a protest at the award to Henry Kissinger of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1973. Lehrer denies this but he did comment that awarding the prize to Kissinger had made political satire obsolete.

Lehrer has always attracted a cult following. Despite a short musical career that ended nearly 40 years ago, his work is still revered by many today. Harry Potter actor Daniel Radcliffe cited Lehrer as, "the cleverest and funniest man of the 20th Century", adding that he was his hero. He even performed one of Lehrer's best known songs, The Elements, on The Graham Norton Show.

Lehrer has said of his musical career, "If, after hearing my songs, just one human being is inspired to say something nasty to a friend, or perhaps to strike a loved one, it will all have been worth the while." Here he is doing, The Vatican Rag.
Today's run at 08:33
Distance4.01 kmTime22:29
Pace5:36 min/kmCadence81 spm
Comments: Frosty and clear.

Friday, 13 January 2012

The anticipation of Spring...

Sometimes the Winter gets me down; dark and damp and cold. I go to work in the dark and I leave work in the dark. There are days when I don't open the curtains; what's the point? Despite its beauty and charm, Wales can be an uninspiring place in the Winter.

The Winter solstice fell on December 22. This was the shortest day of 2011 at 7 hours 50 minutes and 03 seconds with over two thirds of the day spent in darkness. Since that date the length of the day has increased. In Cardiff on January 1st 2012 the sun came up at 08:18 and set at 16:14. Today it rose a full 5 minutes earlier and set a good 16 minutes later.

By the time January is over, the sun will rise at 07:53 and set at 16:59 and the day will be 9 hours 6 minutes and 3 seconds long. By the end of February, the sun will rise at 06:59, set at 17:52 and the length of the day will have increased to 10 hours, 52 minutes and 39 seconds. Things are looking up.

And there's plenty more to look forward to. The double bank holiday weekend for Easter falls April 6th and 9th, the Mayday bank holiday falls on May 7th and the Diamond Jubilee double bank holiday falls June 4th and 5th. Average temperatures start to rise in February and rainfall almost halves by May.

On balance, Wales ain't that bad...
Today's run at 18:05
Distance4.38 kmTime23:51
Pace5:26 min/kmCadence81 spm
Comments: Crisp. Fresh.

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Arses and elbows...

I can still remember wincing when I read, some years ago, the story of the surgeons in a Welsh hospital who accidentally removed a healthy kidney, leaving the diseased kidney in the patient's body. Hot on the heels of that story came the next tale of welsh surgical horror. This confession tells of woman who had a right knee joint inserted into the left knee. Yet another case of cutting edge surgical skills here in the land of song.

Today the welsh news is reporting the story of the surgeon in Wales who mistook a woman's liver for a cancerous kidney he was trying to remove. There are 17 year old lads working as butcher's assistants that could have got this right.

Any doctors or surgeons working in large Welsh hospitals might like to cut out and keep this handy anatomical reference I've provided on the right.

And I know it's not easy, this right and left business but your right hand is usually the one you write and wipe your arse with. This is not always the case and perhaps it's best if you check it out with a friend.
Today's run at 18:17
Distance4.09 kmTime22:33
Pace5:31 min/kmCadence81 spm
Comments: Clear. Fresh.

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Blast from the past...

They say that youth is wasted on the young. Many of us feel that if we only knew yesterday what we know today, how much easier life would be. The benefit of hindsight is a great thing; the only problem is that it comes too late.

But turn it on its head; there are many lessons we could learn from our younger selves. What happened to that yearning, that innocence and optimism, those ideals and beliefs? What do I do now that my get up and go has got up and gone?

At the FutureMe website you can write an e-mail to your older self reminding you of how you once felt and what you once thought. You can remind the crusty old bastard you'll one day undoubtedly become what it's like to be young and cool.

Of course, you could just use it just to write yourself a reminder to buy a lottery ticket on Saturday.

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Where car is king...

As I was walking to the bus stop this morning, I couldn't help but notice how busy the roads were. I then noticed that James Street in the Bay was cordoned off. You couldn't see much from where I was standing but the big yellow sign said Road Closed. Police Incident. On my return from work tonight, James Street was still closed.

Reading the news, I see that the police are investigating a fatal car crash in the Cardiff Bay area at 3am this morning. After failing to stop for a marked police car, the 22 year old driver of a Fiat collided with a pedestrian, 25 year old Kyle Griffith, who later died from his injuries in hospital. The driver, who is suspected of being under the influence of alcohol or drugs at the time of the incident, was re-arrested this evening on suspicion of murder.

We live in a society where people in bars on Friday nights joke about five and drive, where pedestrians are thought of as nuisances and cyclists even worse and where drivers complain about speed cameras and talk of strategies to avoid them. Is it just me or have we got our priorities a little mixed up...?
Today's run at 18:08
Distance4.06 kmTime21:45
Pace5:22 min/kmCadence81 spm
Comments: Drizzle.

Monday, 9 January 2012

Land of my fathers (and mothers)...

It has long been claimed by some here in Wales that America was discovered by the Welsh. It has also been claimed that America was named after a Welshman - Richard Ap Meurig. I think that every country in Europe could probably lay some tenuous claim to the discovery and naming of the New World. So it is with the Welsh.

Many have argued that half the signatories of the American Declaration of Independence were Welsh or of Welsh heritage. It is claimed that 8 presidents were Welsh or of Welsh descent including: Washington, Lincoln, Jefferson, Adams and Obama.

It seems that American movie stars such as Bette Davis, Glenn Ford, Tom Cruise, Bob Hope, Harold Lloyd and Susan Sarandon all have a Welsh ancestry. It's recently been argued that Elvis had his roots here in the Land of Song and, if that weren't enough, I once remember reading a news article some years ago of the claim that Bob Marley was part Welsh. If all this were true it might be an easier task to name a famous American who is not Welsh.

Whilst, undoubtedly, there are a number of the above (and also those named on this list of Welsh Americans) that can genuinely lay claim to a Welsh connection; it strikes me that for most, being Welsh or having a Welsh ancestry will have played little or no part in who they are and what they have become. It seems that this appropriation of the famous as Welsh is a little pointless.

And d'you know what; I'm sure you can detect a soft Welsh lilt from Hitler at the 1933 Nuremberg Rally. Never forget you're Welsh...

Sunday, 8 January 2012

Many happy returns...

Today Elvis Presley would have been 77, Shirley Bassey hits 75,  Stephen Hawking becomes 70 and David Bowie turns 65. Who'd've thought it?

I was never a big Elvis fan, although his laughing version of Are You Lonesome Tonight? never fails to reduce me to giggles. Shirley Bassey always seems a bit pompous but her rendition of Bond themes, such as Goldfinger, is iconic. And as for Stephen Hawking; as a student I used to dance to his records all the time...

As a kid I used to be a huge Bowie fan; the first album I ever bought was The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. Following exposure to this, I saved up all my pocket money to buy everything the man ever produced throughout the 1970s.

His musical changes in direction during the 70s were thrilling; each one accompanied by a change in persona. He ushered in the 1970s with Space Oddity and the tale of Major Tom who chooses cosmic oblivion rather than return to earth. This was followed by the reptilian Ziggy Stardust who, in turn, was followed by Young Americans and his plastic soul persona.

Next came the Thin White Duke and Station to Station and then a segue into a drug-fuelled, krautrock influenced trilogy of albums with Brian Eno; Heroes being the stand out song from this era. He ended the decade by returning Space Oddity's Major Tom to earth on the perfect pop song Ashes to Ashes.

Each time I hear these songs I am transported back to the slick and super sophisticated 1970s. Happy birthday Mr Jones.
Today's run at 08:43
Distance4.01 kmTime22:58
Pace5:44 min/kmCadence82 spm
Comments: Fresh, clear.

Saturday, 7 January 2012


Every once in a while I like to re-read the tweets that I've favourited (is that a word?) over the last few months. I blogged about laughing at my favourite tweets in September and since then I seem to have accumulated quite a store.

There are some seriously funny (and other oxymoronic descriptions of) tweeps in the twitterverse. Re-reading their gems always reduces me to tears of laughter. This morning was another one of those occasions. Here's the cream of the crop:
I was seeing this guy and it was going really well until he closed his curtains.

So sex between 3 people is called a threesome and sex between 2 people is called a twosome... Now I know why everyone calls you handsome.

I just met a woman who uses bathroom cleaner to wash her dog's hair. Flash bitch.

If anyone likes the smell of hamster cages and shit then I thoroughly recommend shopping at Morrisons

What do you get if you cross the Queen and Prince Phillip? Killed in a tunnel.

"The Iron Lady" - the new film about Margaret Thatcher has a '15' rating. It's unsuitable for miners.

Was at the gym yesterday & noticed a hole in my trainer big enough to get my finger in. Well she made a complaint now I'm barred for life!

I pulled a guy with eczema last night. Cracking arse!

Texting is basically just Twitter for people who have friends.
All this and much more, available on a smart phone near you. Now.
Today's run at 08:24
Distance4.02 kmTime22:30
Pace5:36 min/kmCadence82 spm
Comments: Fresh, clear.

Friday, 6 January 2012

Twin town...

So, it looks like local authorities around the country are severing the special relationships between British towns and cities and those in other countries; town-twinning is falling out of favour, if the BBC is to be believed.

The first twinning in modern times in Europe was between Keighley in West Yorkshire and Suresnes and Puteaux in France in 1905. However, the practice didn't really get going until the years immediately after the Second World War. This was an effort to promote understanding and provide support between towns in different countries following the trauma of the war.

The slow demise of the practice stems from the opposite stance taken by certain left wing councils  and the Thatcher government in the 1980s. The adoption by Dundee of the West Bank city of Nablus and the flying of the flag of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation from the city chambers stirred up opinion considerably.

Cardiff's twin towns are:
Stuttgart, Germany - 1955
Luhansk, Ukraine - 1959
Nantes, France - 1963
Xiamen, China - 1983
Hordaland, Norway - 1996
In case you'd ever wondered, this is why we have a Stuttgarter Strasse and a Boulevard de Nantes slap in the middle of the Welsh capital. I've yet to find a Luhansk Lane or a Hordaland Avenue in Cardiff but I live in hope.

With the tightening of civic purse strings coupled with the channels of communication now available to us in our digital age, I can understand why there may be quite some pressure to sever these formal links or at least allow them wither. However, I hope we don't let this happen because it is precisely at uncertain times such ours that we may need that understanding and support such twinnings bring. Indeed, you could argue that we should extend the twinned towns arrangement and reach out even further.

Click on the following link for a list of UK towns and cities and their respective twin towns.
Today's run at 17:32
Distance4.04 kmTime21:51
Pace5:24 min/kmCadence82 spm
Comments: Squally showers.

Thursday, 5 January 2012


I have an early 19th Century edition of Doctor Samuel Johnson's Dictionary of the English Language, which he originally completed in 1755 - the first comprehensive dictionary of the English language. It's probably not worth much in terms of money but I love this book.

I love it because, unlike modern dictionaries, Dr Johnson sometimes allows himself to drift in his efforts to define words objectively - his own views and prejudices are, at times, apparent:
Politician: 1. One versed in the arts of government; one skilled in politicks. 2. A man of artifice; one of deep contrivance.
Oats: A grain, which in England is generally given to horses, but in Scotland appears to support the people.
Lexicographer: A writer of dictionaries; a harmless drudge that busies himself in tracing the original, and detailing the signification of words.
Dull: Not exhilaterating (sic); not delightful; as, to make dictionaries is dull work.
I've got quite a collection of dictionaries and reference books: everything from your standard dictionaries to more colourful volumes, such as The Devil's Dictionary by Ambrose Bierce, originally published in 1906. He takes Dr Johnson's dry wit one stage further:
Acquaintance, n. A person whom we know well enough to borrow from, but not well enough to lend to. A degree of friendship called slight when its object is poor or obscure, and intimate when he is rich or famous.
Generous, adj. Originally this word meant noble by birth and was rightly applied to a great multitude of persons. It now means noble by nature and is taking a bit of a rest.
Riot, n. A popular entertainment given to the military by innocent bystanders.
Year, n. A period of three hundred and sixty-five disappointments.
Here you can find The Dictionary of the English Language by Dr Samuel Johnson and The Devil's Dictionary by Ambrose Bierce.
Today's run at 17:32
Distance4.28 kmTime24:42
Pace5:46 min/kmCadence80 spm
Comments: Blustery, squally showers.

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Writer's block...

There's not a thought in my head; the cupboard is bare. The harder I try and think about what to write tonight the tighter and more constrained I feel.  I couldn't write a post for this blog tonight if my life depended on it. I can think of nothing that interests me, nor is likely to interest you. Do I have writer's block...?

According to Wikipedia's article on writer's block, it is a condition
In which an author loses the ability to produce new work. The condition varies widely in intensity. It can be trivial, a temporary difficulty in dealing with the task at hand. At the other extreme, some "blocked" writers have been unable to work for years on end, and some have even abandoned their careers.

Leo Tolstoy, Virginia Woolf, Katherine Mansfield, Joseph Conrad, Ernest Hemingway all suffered from writer's block. Andrew Motion revealed how it had struck in the middle of his laureateship, and how he was not prepared for the isolation of the job. Philip Lrkin suffered intermittently with it, saying, "I haven't given poetry up; poetry has given me up." Isaac Asimov, it is said, "had writer's block once. It was the worst ten minutes of his life."

American poet, William Stafford, is attributed with saying: "There is no such thing as writer's block for writers whose standards are low enough." He wasn't advocating writing any old rubbish but that writer's often take themselves too seriously and are too self critical. It's a form of self censorship; nothing is considered quite up to the mark and therefore, quite soon, the writer has stymied themselves into silence. Checkmate.

There is much advice on how to climb out of that dried up inkwell you've fallen into, such as to just start writing anything. Sure, much will be drivel but the physical act of writing will start the literary juices flowing. Another remedy is to do something physical like going to the gym or going for a run or a swim. Agatha Christie swore by her own cure of eating apples in the bath. None has been proven to work.

Of course not all writers suffer chronically with it, although, I suspect all writers experience the occasional bout from time to time. Except, that is, Will Self, if he's to be believed, "I have never experienced writer's block. Writing is a muscular action and, like any other, all you need to do is exercise the muscles. I don't even think of it as writing – it's typing."

There are a collection of apartments in Cardiff Bay in which the BBC houses some of its writers when they are working on BBC Wales productions. Russel T Davies (Queer As Folk, Dr Who and Torchwood) lived there for a few years. Each time I pass it on my run I smile when I remember that it became known at this time as Writer's Block.
Today's run at 17:49
Distance4.02 kmTime22:39
Pace5:39 min/kmCadence80 spm
Comments: Very windy. Raining. Mild backache.

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Floreat St. Trinian's...

I was saddened to hear today that Ronald Searle died on December 30th. Despite a wealth of other work published here in the UK and across the world, he is best known for his cartoon strip about the shabby, private boarding school for girls, St. Trinian's.

Most people of my age will remember the TV broadcasts in the 1970s of the series of films based on Searle's original cartoons. I remember savouring those anarchic scenes of violence and depravity set in, of all places, a girls' boarding school in the 1950s.

The school represents a portrait of a post war Britain: disillusioned and amateur, surviving on rationing and petty crime; where any comfort had to be stolen or illegally bought on the black market; where money could be made by those shrewd enough to spot it and quick enough to take it. This was a Britain bankrupt by the war and living on handouts from the yanks. A Britain that presented a respectable front to the world whilst turning a blind eye to its shady reality; best summed up by the phrase, fur coat and no knickers.

The cast of the first film, The Belles of St. Trinian's (1954), included: Alastair Sim, Joyce Grenfell, George Cole, Beryl Reid, Irene Handl, Joan Sims, Sid James and young Barbara Windsor in her first film role. It reads like a who's who of British comedy. As is the way with sequels, they got steadily worse with every subsequent production.

The Belles of St. Trinian's iconic score was written by one of the greatest composers of the 20th Century, Sir Malcolm Arnold. Who can forget the original St. Trinian's theme? It sounds like something written by the music teacher and badly played by the school orchestra - a brilliant concept by Arnold.

Finally, here's a scene from The Belles of St. Trinian's that brings it all flooding back. Thank you Ronald Searle - May St. Trinian's Flourish...
Today's run at 17:18
Distance4.04 kmTime22:22
Pace5:32 min/kmCadence81 spm
Comments: Very windy. Mild backache.

Monday, 2 January 2012

Like a bolt from the blue...

Whilst running up Boy George Avenue this morning, I caught a flash in my peripheral vision. I looked up and again, there it was: lightning. Before too long came the rumble then boom of the thunder and, with that, a downpour of rain. If I'd thought there was any chance of getting struck by lightning, I'd have worn my best shorts. I picked up the pace.

An estimated 240,000 people are injured as a result of lightning strikes around the world every year; 10% of those struck are killed. Direct strikes to a person's body often result in no serious injury. However, metallic objects that are in direct contact with the person who is struck can concentrate the lightning. There are at least two reported cases where the victim was wearing an iPod and suffered more serious injuries as a result.

The chances of being struck by lightning for someone living in the U.S. is half a million to one. U.S. National Park Ranger Roy Sullivan has the record for being struck by lightning the most times. Sullivan was struck seven times during his 35 year career and, as a result, lost the nail on one of his big toes and suffered multiple injuries to the rest of his body.

In 1971 a LANSA flight crashed in a thunderstorm in Peru, killing all of its 6 crew and 85 of its 86 passengers. The sole survivor was Juliane Koepcke, who fell 2 miles down into the Amazon rainforest strapped to her seat and remarkably survived the fall. She was then able to walk through the jungle for 10 days until she was rescued by local lumbermen.
Today's run at 09:01
Distance4.02 kmTime22:40
Pace5:38 min/kmCadence81 spm
Comments: Thunder & lightning. Backache.

Sunday, 1 January 2012


I went for an early(ish) run this morning in an effort to beat the crowds. The park was dead; just one girl walking her dog and playing with her mobile. The only other people I saw were two lads doing the walk of shame through Mermaid Quay and a cleaner in Pizza Express. I was the only runner; the New Year Resolutionaries hadn't yet surfaced.

New Year's resolutions generally cover the following subjects:
Improve well-being
Improve finances
Improve career
Improve education
Improve self
Take a trip
Help others
A recent study showed that while 52% of participants were confident of success with their goals, only 12% actually achieved them. Another recent study showed that 78% of those who set New Year resolutions fail. Is our will power really that weak?

I don't make New Year's resolutions anymore. I used to, many, many years ago but usually, before January was out they were long forgotten. So I stopped making them. Changes to behaviour are usually difficult and take a long time. They rarely happen overnight - even if that night is the one between December 31st and January 1st.

If you want to succeed at your resolution, you have to want to achieve it. That may seem obvious but I think that most people who make New Year's resolutions do not want to achieve their goal. They don't want to change their lives; they think they ought to change their lives. There's a difference and that difference is borne out in failure.

For most of my adult life I was a smoker. And for most of my adult life I believed I ought to quit smoking. I failed at this time after time because I enjoyed smoking. Success came when I started running. I enjoyed running more than I enjoyed smoking. Finally, I wanted to give up smoking rather than merely thinking I ought to. That was six smoke free years ago.

Alain de Botton, writer and TV philosopher, argues:
We don’t tend to make resolutions about things we completely believe in. Few of us would ever resolve to be appalled by war or disease. It just comes naturally. But we do resolve all the time to be kinder or more hardworking, because a sizeable part of us loves being cruel and sitting around. A resolution always hovers over a grave inner conflict and constitutes a vow by one part of ourselves against another. Which is why – according to some - we should never be so foolish as to make a resolution.
Whether you want to stop drinking or biting your nails, start exercising and being a better person or learn Suomi and become a virtuoso at the banjolele; there are opportune moments when these changes are more likely to succeed.

I have come to the conclusion that there are certain instances in your life when a change is right; disparate elements come together; things fall into place; your body tells you that it's right. Those instances rarely coincide with New Year's Day.
Today's run at 08:34
Distance4.01 kmTime23:29
Pace5:51 min/kmCadence81 spm
Comments: Overcast. Backache.